Korea, Vietnam progress with nuclear plant deal

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Korea, Vietnam progress with nuclear plant deal


Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang, front, and his wife Mai Thi Hanh, behind him, wave to a crowd during a ceremony at the Blue House in Seoul, yesterday. Sang arrived in Seoul yesterday for a three-day state visit. [Joint Press Corps]

Korea and Vietnam made a first but important step at a bilateral summit in Seoul yesterday toward cooperation on nuclear development in Vietnam, which is likely to award a nuclear plant construction deal to Korea.

According to a joint declaration issued after the summit at the Blue House, the two leaders gave special attention to Korea’s proposal for using its technology to build nuclear plants in Vietnam, educate professionals and transfer technology.

President Lee Myung-bak and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang approved the “Overall Joint Proposed Plan” for nuclear power development and agreed to use the plan as a basis for “further cooperation.”

The specifics of the plan, however, were not released at the request of Vietnam.

The plan consists of a joint study of the conditions for building two APR1400 nuclear reactors, which can produce 1.4 million kilowatts of energy each and are identical to the ones Korea will build in the United Arab Emirates. The reactors are also identical to the Singori reactors.

Korea won a $20 billion order in December 2009 to build four nuclear reactors in the UAE by 2020, the first ever overseas nuclear power plant construction deal won by Korea.

Choi Tae-hyun, director general of the nuclear industrial power policy department at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, said further discussions on building nuclear power plants in Vietnam are expected.

“Vietnam also needs to find land for nuclear plants,” Choi added, but also said it is too early to say Korea is close to winning a nuclear deal there.

Vietnam announced last year a plan to build 13 nuclear reactors by 2030 to meet its skyrocketing electricity demands. The Southeastern Asian country’s National Assembly has already approved the construction of four reactors. The first and second reactors will be built by Russia and the third and the fourth by Japan. Vietnam has not decided who will build the fifth and the sixth reactors but Korea is the “only country” to conduct joint research with, Choi said.

“Vietnam awarded the previous reactor deals in private contracts rather than through competition,” Choi said. “It will be similar for the fifth and the sixth reactors.”

Although Choi did not discuss the price for the deals, it is expected to be similar to the UAE contracts, he said. Choi also said Vietnam is likely to pay for the construction of the plants rather than asking contractors to recoup their investments by selling electricity.

On Feb. 25, Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Joong-kyung visited Vietnam and met its premier. On July 12, both sides agreed to create the plan. On Oct. 19, Choi and his Vietnamese counterpart approved the plan.

The two countries’ leaders also agreed to work together to meet the trade goal of $20 billion by 2015. They also agreed to cooperate on information technology.

By Limb Jae-un, Ser Myo-ja [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]
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